Unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, also known more commonly as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, have long been a mystery. Besides images captured by distant cameras on fighter jets and tales of UFO sightings, these flying phenomena are yet to be confirmed.
One Harvard professor is taking new steps to explore and solve this mystery. On Monday, Avi Loeb, a professor in the university’s Department of Astronomy, announced the launch of the Galileo Project, which is dedicated to bringing systematic scientific research to investigate these extraterrestrial claims.
The initial inspiration for the Galileo Project came to Loeb in two parts: Both were objects identified near Earth that had looked unusual. The first was “Oumuamua,” discovered by a telescope in Hawaii in 2017 and later known as the first interstellar object to visit this solar system. The second was the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report delivered to Congress on June 25, 2021. However, there were only unclear photographs of UFOs taken from fighter jets and testimonies from pilots.
“To me, that was very intriguing, the existence of both types of objects, and that’s what led to the Galileo Project, trying to figure out the nature of these objects,” Loeb told Boston.com.
After the report was delivered to Congress, Bill Nelson, director of NASA, told CNN in an interview that he wanted scientists at NASA to investigate UFOs from a scientific standpoint. Loeb initially reached out to these scientists, but when he received no reply, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Loeb believed that the best way to identify these UAPs would be to move away from relying on politicians or military personnel and, instead, use scientific research and instruments.
“It’s a win-win proposition,” Loeb said. “Getting more data, rather than relying on our prejudice, is a way for us to learn about reality and learn something new. And that’s the way science makes progress.”
The team, consisting of 16 researchers, is currently funded by $1.8 million from several donors, and the project will invest in a number of small-aperture telescopes that will be placed in various geographic locations. The data from these telescopes will be fed to a camera, which will relay it to a computer system filtering out objects that might be of interest to the team.
The project has three separate goals it aims to achieve. The first is to obtain high-resolution images of UAP using the telescopes and data using extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches. The second is to search for and identify interstellar objects, similar to that of Oumuamua. The project will also search for potential extraterrestrial technological civilizations, or ETCs, that may be orbiting the Earth.
Although investigations on UAPs are already underway by the Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena task force, or UAPTF, much of its information is classified data. Instead, the Galileo Project will make its data accessible to the public with full transparency.
“Science is an extension of our childhood curiosity. I don’t want to believe stories from the past, reports and so forth. I just want to reproduce it with new data that we collect with our telescopes,” Loeb said. “If there is something out there, we will find it. And we will find it in a transparent way with open data, and nothing will be hidden.”
In just a few days of the announcement, the Galileo Project has garnered the interest of many. Loeb has received thousands of emails from young people who are interested in engaging with the project. During the past six months where Loeb was giving interviews, he also received interest from donors who gave him the funding that established the foundation of the project.
“I’m excited by the thrill of finding something new,” Loeb said. “I think whenever you look at the sky in a different way, you’re likely to discover something new.”
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